Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Today I received (for about the 80 millionth time) the "Penny Brown" email, from someone who has sent it to me before. This email has been circulating continuously since September 2001 and must be the longest living "missing child" hoax around. Hasn’t anyone noticed that Penny is perpetually 9 years old and has been "missing for two weeks" for about five years now?

With its origins in Calgary, Alberta (circa 2001), this hoax has evolved as people pass it along – different variants and spins have localized in Texas, Australia, Ohio, Singapore and California – and in 2003 some schmuck had the wherewithal to add the term "Amber Alert" to the subject line.

Credible missing child reports supply details like a full name and birthdate, the date and place that a child has gone missing, a description of the child and the clothes they were wearing when they were last seen, and height/weight, for example. They most certainly will contain contact information for local police forces who are involved in the search.

I hate all kinds of chain letters but ones about missing (or dying) children are definitely among the worst.

A quick internet search reveals that Penny Brown is not missing, nor is she the subject of an Amber Alert. Actually we don’t even know if Penny Brown is a real person!

If you receive this email DO NOT FORWARD IT. Break the chain. By using the "Reply All" function you can let everyone know that this is a hoax and ask them NOT to forward it on as well. To quote Bryant Harper at Code Amber, they have "enough to do looking for children that are really missing."

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